Political Parties Urged to Take Measures for Educational Reforms

Islamabad: Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), in collaboration with Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), organized a conference on Mapping the Educational Reforms in View of the Next Democratic Tenure. The conference brought together independent education policy experts, government stakeholders, and political parties to discuss the need for more inclusive and equitable quality education.

During the event, prominent speakers addressed the pressing issue of education and learning as a lifeline for all citizens without discrimination. Dr Baela Raza Jamil, CEO of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, highlighted Pakistan's low performance on key indicators of SDG 4 in South Asia, failing to uphold Article 25-A, which grants a fundamental constitutional right to education. Despite progressive manifestos, political parties have repeatedly fallen short of delivering on their promises, resulting in the exclusion and hardship of millions of children, especially girls and marginalized groups. The upcoming elections present an opportunity for progressive education investment and delivery for all citizens, grounded in robust learning foundations.

Dr A. H. Nayyar emphasized that the state has failed to implement Article 25-A, as nearly half of the children are deprived of schooling due to insufficient resources allocated by the government. He urged political parties to include a commitment to enhance the education budget by 6% of GDP in their election manifestos.

Dr Shoaib Suddle pointed out that the government has been violating order no. 2 of the Jillani judgment and Article 22(1) of the constitution by including religious instruction in compulsory subjects, putting non-Muslim students in a position where they must learn Islamiyat in all courses.

Peter Jacob, Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, stressed the importance of fulfilling and implementing Articles 22(1) and 25-A of the Constitution, ensuring the right to education without discrimination. Civil society will actively engage with political parties to advocate for positive educational reforms before and after the 2023 elections.

Wajahat Masood appreciated the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in 2014. However, he highlighted that implementing constitutional articles requires corresponding laws and policies that are not sectarian, religion-based, or discriminatory. Pakistan must ensure equality for all citizens and discourage divisive identity-based groups.

Dr Prof. Yaqoob Khan Bangash emphasized the need for social interaction among students from different communities to promote inclusion, pluralism, and diversity.

Waseem Ajmal, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training, assured the ministry's commitment to removing religious instruction and hate speech from compulsory subjects, aligning with Article 22(1) of the Constitution.

Saima Anwer called for school curricula and textbooks that promote inclusion, diversity, critical thinking, and improved learning outcomes. She also advocated for suitable alternatives to compulsory Islamic education for minorities.

Farhatullah Babar, former Senator from PPP, highlighted the importance of prioritizing quality education to instil pluralistic values in children. He called for a reevaluation of measures that could transform schools into religious seminaries and suggested revisiting the induction of madrassa graduates as teachers.

Senator Sana Jamali, the convener of the Education Parliamentary Caucus, stressed the need for collaboration between civil society, government, and politicians to educate all out-of-school children and dropouts.

Zubaida Jalal, MNA, underscored the primary aim of educational reforms: to create equitable learning environments where every student can access quality education and thrive. Public education should empower students to become valuable and participative members of society.

Mehnaz Akber Aziz, MNA, emphasized the importance of bringing out-of-school children into formal education and focusing on learning outcomes. She supported the cross-party caucus on inclusive education and proposed a scorecard system to evaluate legislators' education-related interventions in their constituencies.

Dr Ammar Ali Jan, President of the Haqooq-e-Khalq Party, called for allowing critical thinking on campuses and treating universities as sites for dialogue and debate. He emphasized the need to plan the economy to ensure a university-jobs pipeline, providing ample opportunities for graduates.

The conference, hosted by Faaria Khan, featured panel discussions on various topics related to inclusive and equitable quality education, as well as political parties' commitments and actions for educational reforms. Harris Khalique and Munizae Jahangir moderated the panel discussions.

The conference served as a platform for constructive dialogue and collaboration among various stakeholders, aiming to drive meaningful changes and advancements in Pakistan's education system.